Renowned author Elizabeth Gilbert has announced the delay of her forthcoming novel, “The Snow Forest,” set in Russia. Gilbert’s decision came in response to the impassioned objections raised by Ukrainian readers. Citing their anger, sorrow, disappointment, and pain, she expressed her desire not to contribute further harm to a group of people already experiencing the grievous consequences of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Elizabeth Gilbert Decision to Delay Release of Russian Set Novel
The novel, initially scheduled for release in February, has now been postponed indefinitely. Gilbert’s choice to delay publication highlights the complexities that authors face when navigating geopolitical sensitivities and the impact of real-world events on their creative work.
The Context of The Snow Forest
According to APN News, “The Snow Forest” is a novel set in Siberia during the tumultuous era of the Soviet Union in the mid-20th century. The narrative follows a group of individuals who retreat from society to resist the Soviet government, exploring themes of resilience, wilderness, and the mystical connection between humans and the natural world.
Elizabeth Gilbert, best known for her immensely popular memoir “Eat Pray Love,” had recently unveiled her new project, inspired by the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. In a video announcement, Gilbert shared her experiences of finding solace in isolation during the pandemic and her subsequent fascination with the idea of complete detachment from the modern world. This led her to delve into the story of a girl with exceptional spiritual and creative talent raised far away from conventional norms.
Ukrainian Objections and Gilbert’s Response
Elizabeth Gilbert’s decision to delay the release of “The Snow Forest” came in response to a significant outpouring of objections from Ukrainian readers. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, tensions between the two countries have been running high, and the creative community has grappled with how to address the situation. In the case of Gilbert’s novel, even before advance copies were available, it received hundreds of one-star reviews on platforms like Goodreads. Many readers expressed concerns that the book could be insensitive and potentially whitewash the ongoing conflict.
In her video message, Gilbert acknowledged the massive response she received from Ukrainian readers and emphasized that she did not want to add any harm to a group of people already experiencing extreme suffering. Recognizing the grievous and ongoing harm inflicted on the Ukrainian people, she concluded that it was not the appropriate time for her book to be published.
Reactions and Controversy
Gilbert’s decision to delay the publication of “The Snow Forest” has ignited a range of reactions. Some readers and literary enthusiasts commend her for demonstrating empathy and sensitivity towards the ongoing conflict and the suffering of the Ukrainian people. They view her action as a conscientious choice to avoid exacerbating tensions and as a recognition of the power that art and literature can wield in reflecting and respecting the real-world struggles faced by communities.
However, not everyone agrees with Gilbert’s decision. PEN America, the free expression organization, referred to her move as “regrettable” in a statement issued by CEO Suzanne Nossel. Nossel argued that the objections arose before readers had the chance to read or judge the content of the book itself. Nossel emphasized the importance of fiction and culture in fostering mutual understanding and empathy and defended the freedom of readers to make their own choices regarding the consumption of literary works.